Americans used slaves for 200 years
before California became a state. Slaves were needed to work on the cotton
and tobacco plantations. The first black slaves had been brought to the
Jamestown Colony in 1617 by the Dutch.
The Northeastern states made a great
deal of money from slaves. Many slaves were taken to the West Indies and
traded for molasses. The molasses was taken to New England and made into
rum. Some New Englanders bought slaves to help with this.
After a time the North gave up their
slaves. The climate and type of work in the North did not fit the African
slaves as well as in the South. In 1790 the North had about 40,000 slaves
while the South had about 650,000. By 1850 the number of slaves in the South
had grown to more than 3,000,000. At this time the North had only about 250
slaves. The 1860 census showed that 32 percent of white families living in the states that would secede from the Union owned slaves. Families in some southern states, such as Arkansas with only 20% slave owners, owned way less than the average. Forty-six percent of South Carolina families owned slaves and 49 percent in Mississippi owned slaves.
Only three hundred and fifty
thousand out of six million Southerners owned slaves. Fewer than two
thousand of these Southerners had one hundred or more slaves. Most slave
owners had four or less slaves.
Slaves were treated very differently
from one plantation to the next. Some slaves worked inside the home. They
cooked, cleaned, and cared for the children of the white family. Most slaves
worked in the fields. They worked a long day from sunrise to after sunset.
Some slaves worked in factories in big cities such as Atlanta and New
These slaves were not paid for their
work. Slaves lived in dirt-floored huts.